Former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Gilbert Michel testified on Tuesday in the obstruction of justice trial for six sheriff’s officials who have been accused of impeding a federal civil rights investigation, according to The Los Angeles Times. The investigation centered around the use of excessive force at L.A. County jails.
Michel testified that inmates would be beaten unprovoked, slapped, tasered and searched them to pick fights. Michel claimed he learned all of this while on the job. Michel claims that he and other guards would meet to discuss their stories so they could write bogus reports that justified the brutality used. Michel said that it an inmate did not have any bruising, he would not report the violence.
Michel said he did all of this with impunity. Michel smuggled a cell phone to an inmate for a bride in August of 2011. He did not know that this was part of an undercover FBI operation. This led to the Sheriff’s Department finding out and then creating a conspiracy to stall the inquiry.
The defendants on trial include two deputies, two lieutenants and two sergeants. None of them are accused of civil rights violations or excessive force.
Michel faces 10 years in prison from his 2012 guilty plea of bribery and agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors. Michel has not been charged in relation to his admittance of excessive force.
In the days following the smuggling of the cell phone into the prison, Michel was interviewed by Sheriff’s Department investigators internally. They reportedly told him that smuggling the phone was fine and that the FBI was trying to bully or blackmail him.
A defendant in the trial, Sgt. Scott Craig, told Michel during an interview that, “We’re all part of this department and we’re all one big happy dysfunctional family, and … they’re going to … manipulate you like you’re a puppet? I don’t think so.”
Lt. Stephen Leavins asked Michel in the interview the following: “What’s this about? Open your mind up here a little bit.”
“It’s about, they’re trying to bring down the department and find out information,” Michel said.
“Who are they trying to use to do that?” Leavins asked.
“Me, sir,” Michel said.
Michel stepped down from the Sheriff’s Department the next month instead of being fired.
Michel is expected to continue his lengthy testimony in the case on Wednesday. During his testimony, Michel said that he learned how to beat prisoners and lie on reports while on the job.